The Crossroads

The Doha Peace Deal offers Afghanistan the opportunity to build and
consolidate the nation and develop peaceful ties in the region

By Dr. Moonis Ahmar | April 2020

Afghanistan's Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, both have claimed victory in the election.

Perhaps God is not kind to the people of Afghanistan because there is no lull in violence and armed conflict in that unfortunate country since the outbreak of the Saur revolution in April 1978. If two steps forward are taken for peace in Afghanistan, there are four steps backwards.

The latest perceived breakthrough in Afghanistan is the signing of the Doha Agreement between the United States and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) on February 29, 2020. While the agreement is termed as a win-win situation for the Taliban and the United States, other stakeholders in the Afghan conflict, namely the Afghan government and the neighbours of Afghanistan (excluding Pakistan), were left out. If the Taliban agreed to adhere to a ceasefire and not to attack American/foreign forces, the United States committed to withdraw its 12,000 forces within 14 months and release 5,000 Taliban and 1,000 Afghan prisoners of war (POWs). But, initially the Kabul regime refused to release Taliban POWs; it was argued that the Doha Agreement was not binding on them. Later, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed a presidential order announcing the release of Taliban POWs in phases.

Though the stalemate on the release of Taliban POWs was broken, a clumsy situation still prevailed in Kabul as two presidential oath-taking ceremonies were held: one for President Ashraf Ghani who has been declared winner in the presidential elections and the other for Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah who refused to concede defeat. The Taliban have made it clear that after the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, it will be their right to be in power. As a result, in the coming months, it can be expected that Afghanistan will further plunge in violent civil war.

Afghanistan is at a crossroads because of four main reasons. First, the failure to seek consensus among Afghan groups for ceasefire and unleash the process of dialogue for establishing peace in the war-torn country. After the Doha Agreement, a two-pronged threat to Afghanistan can be visualized: rising confrontation between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah who has also taken oath as president on March 10. In 2014 too, when the presidential elections in Afghanistan were held and in the run-off polls, Ashraf Ghani defeated Abdullah Abdullah; the latter had refused to accept the election results but because of the efforts of the then American Secretary of State, John Kerry, a face-saving arrangement was agreed upon whereby Abdullah Abdullah was given the newly-created position of Chief Executive.

Read More